Subjects Archive

Wish lists and budget buys

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Super Decathalon

My dream aircraft!

On my commercial flight to AOPA Aviation Summit, I started daydreaming about the products that would be on display in the exhibit hall. If my purse had no limit, I thought, what would I buy? Immediately, I thought of a new pair of headsets. I’ve been borrowing a pair for almost a year now after my signature blue Sigtronics that I’ve had for 12 years started to interfere with communication. Then, I started making a wish list of everything else. List in hand, I set out in the exhibit hall with two budgets in mind: unlimited and a more realistic $500 limit.

Product

Unlimited budget

$500 budget

Airplane

I’ve been weak in the knees ever since I saw 5G Aviation’s fire-engine red Super Decathlon in the Parade of Planes on Oct. 10. So, I headed straight to the exhibitor outside the Palm Springs Convention Center to inquire. For $175,000, the base airplane would be mine; plus, I’d purchase two $1,995 training sessions from them to finish off my tailwheel endorsement and take an unusual attitude recovery class.

I’d buy a Cirrus SR22 for my distance-flying machine. That costs $449,900.

Subscription to Trade-A-Plane. I’m on a 10-year savings plan to buy a used aircraft, so Trade-A-Plane will help educate me on the market. A one-year subscription costs $9.95.

Headsets

Headsets are very personal items. I tried out David Clark, Lightspeed, Bose, and Clarity Aloft headsets in the exhibit hall. The Clarity Aloft headsets interested me because they wrap around the back of my head and fit inside my ears. Traditional headsets typically start hurting the top of my head after about two hours of flying. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d buy one from each headset manufacturer, fly around with them, and then pick my favorite.

I’d buy the tried and true David Clark H10-30 headset with passive noise attenuation for $270. David Clark will repair anything that breaks or goes wrong with the headsets—for free, no questions asked. Even though they don’t have active noise canceling, they are comfortably quiet.

Navigation

Garmin aera 796 portable GPS—oh, the luxury of not folding and unfolding a sectional a million different ways. The aera 796 costs $2,499.

I would enter every raffle exhibitors at Summit were offering to win a free iPad. Then I’d wait a few weeks for AOPA’s FlyQ EFB to be released and buy the VFR plus IFR subscription for $119.

Aviation adventure

Air Race Classic 2013—four days of flying over 2,133 nautical miles. The adventure costs $6,000 per team.

I’d live vicariously through The Aviators. I can buy a season on DVD for $20.

Sunglasses

Scheyden talked me into trying on their Albatross line, which costs $209. I have an older pair of Scheydens that have served me well. They’ve lasted three years so far, a remarkable feat for someone who has stepped on and rolled a nosewheel over sunglasses before.

Hazebuster exhibited some stylish sunglasses at Summit that range in price from $38 to $115.

 

Top 10 Things I Want To See At The AOPA Aviation Summit

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

The bad news for me is I won’t be at Summit this year.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t dream about all the things I would have done while I was there.  So below is my list, in no particular order.  And for those of you are are attending, have a great time!!

  1. The Parade of Planes. How often do you get to see a large mass of planes in a parade from the airport to the convention center? But thanks to the wonders of livestreaming, I’ll be able to see this event tomorrow, Oct. 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Pacific time. I even get AOPA President Craig Fuller and AOPA Pilot Editor Tom Haines giving me their personal commentary on the festivities. And you can follow along using the Twitter hashtag #AOPAPOP.
  2. iPads, iPads, iPads There are some great iPad education sessions this year, including: Advanced iPad: Tips and Tricks for Becoming an Expert; iPad 101; iPad Weather Options; and iPad: Beyond the EFB.  And please use the hashtag #AOPAiPad so we can all follow along.
  3. The 2012 Elections’ Effect on GA. During the Friday keynote address, Fuller, actor/pilot Harrison Ford, Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, Haines and Flying magazine Editor Robert Goyer will discuss how GA will be affected after the election. The hashtag for the Friday keynote is #AOPAKey2.
  4. The Thursday Keynote. This event includes Adam Kisielewski, awounded war veteran and LSA pilot who will share his inspirational story. And Craig Fuller will moderate a panel with Haines, AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and Editor at Large Tom Horne where they will talk about their global GA travels. The Twitter hashtag for this event is #AOPAKey1.
  5. The Center to Advance the Pilot Community.  Senior VP Adam Smith will join others with more details on this new initiative, including plans to work with flying clubs, along with the winners of the Flight Training scholarships and the Flight Training CFIs and flight school award winners.
  6. New Sweeps Plane.  Right after we give away the Aviat Husky, we’ll announce the next sweeps plane. Don’t ask me what it is!!
  7. Airportfest. Speaking of planes, check out the display of aircraft surrounding the convention center, ranging from the Beech S35 to the Van’s RV-14.
  8. A Night For Flight Gala.  This event provides a lovely evening of  food, fun, and amazing entertainment, all to benefit the work of the AOPA Foundation.  If you can’t make the event, you can still help by bidding on items at the online auction. There are prizes that fit any pocketbook, so please put in a bid by Oct. 13.
  9. The Exhibit Hall.  I’m a student pilot, so of course I want to see — and buy — the latest gear.  The Summit exhibit hall will have around 400 booths that will let attendees to just that!
  10. The people.  Having already attended Sun ‘N Fun and Oshkosh this year, I’m convinced we have the best members.  I’m sorry I won’t be able to meet more of them at Summit this year. But I’ll see you in Fort Worth in 2013!

Comments from an Alaska veteran pilot

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Every once in a while I get a letter from a reader that is especially encouraging and thoughtful. Today was just such an occasion when 30-year Alaska pilot Jim Gibertoni commented on my Waypoints column in the October issue . The subject is the use of general aviation for transportation and the associated challenges.

Given his decades of flying in challenging Alaska, his comments and observations are particularly valuable. He cut and pasted my article into his email and then inserted his comments into the article [I've noted his inserted comments in italics.] I’ve posted his letter verbatim below. What do you think?

Tom

I will save a copy of this article in my past great article file. Do not change anything it’s great. You are 200% correct and to me this is one of the pieces to the puzzle of why GA is going backwards.

My comments ( not to be confused with changes, do not change anything in this article) are in red. [I have put Jim's comments in ital--Ed.]

When I write about using my Beechcraft Bonanza for transportation, I frequently get questions from members asking how to best plan for weather contingencies when flying a single-engine piston airplane. Good question. I wish there was a single, simple answer.

My first question to myself when considering a trip where weather is a factor is about the capabilities of the airplane and myself. I do this all the time, sole searching myself has kept me safe I believe. Is this the sort of weather situation that can be handled in a single-engine piston airplane? Very good question, I ASK MYSELF THIS EVERY FLIGHT. Let’s face it, while we like to crow about the utility of flying ourselves, there are limits, especially when flying airplanes like mine. I agree 200%, my plane is the same as yours 1969 U206/G. The plane is non turbo, no anti ice and was set up for economy, lost cost, LOP, and carrying allot weight. My plane has got to return money to the coffers. I am a plumber in Northern Alaska traveling from village to village (my pickup). It not a toy. I fly it 300 hours plus per year and about 10% is in hard IMC. Did I mention that I live in Northern Alaska and we have icing here (350 days a year).

Without even turbocharging to get into the flight levels, no ice protection except pitot heat, and no pressurization, my options are limited. No airplane is immune to weather, but with a turboprop, pressurization, and icing protection—and maybe even airborne radar—you can get through more situations than those of us who fly more pedestrian machines. Agreed, exactly correct, Looked at getting a Caravan numerous times. While a Caravan would add to the utility it would not return money to the coffers. The Math simply is not there.

Putting the gear aside for a moment, how am I doing? Instrument current and confident? Rested, hydrated, and nourished enough and feeling up to a challenge that may be a couple of hours down the airway—after I’ve been sitting at 9,000 or 10,000 feet all that time? And am I really up to the challenge today? I’m usually game for going for a look-see, but there is an occasional day where I simply don’t feel like running the flight planning gauntlet and the hassle that may come from having to stop short of the planned destination. Excellent

Those are the days I just stay home or buy a ticket and let someone else do the work. This sentence and the timing of this article on my doorstep is so accurate. In the last two weeks I skip 7 days in a row going to Kaltag a village about 250 miles west. One the eighth day I went under published MVFR weather. Nine times out of ten I am single pilot VFR/IFR. This day I took a second  pilot with me (inner voice). I have an STEC 30 A/P. Trip was non eventful other then hard IMC on the way home. Three days later I got ridiculed by other CFI for flying that day because of potential icing. Point is I do not have your option let someone else do the work. That not feasible, so I just wait for my window. A very old woman ask me last year if I ever had an accident with the plane. I told her no, I am way overdue!

However, making challenging flights is how we grow in our weather experience and decision making. Thank you for this sentence, you truly are a master at your writing skills, wish I could do this. Staying home when the sky darkens is a sure path to not getting much utility out of an airplane. Preaching to the choir. All things in life are in balance, sway one way and the story ends sadly, sway the other way and you lose utility and money. I am 60 now and been flying up here since the 70’s. Sometimes I think I have a PHD in this balancing act until I get caught, and I still get caught at times. Old Sicilian saying “you can be arrogant, you can be ignorant, however you cannot be arrogant and ignorant at the same time” Never forgot that and how it applies to Aviation. Next step for a lot of people is to sell the airplane, because they aren’t using it enough.

Most important for me is a flexible schedule. As I’ve said before, I don’t plan on traveling by GA anytime I have a hard and fast deadline to meet. If I don’t have the schedule flexibility to leave a day early or later and the forecast is for severe weather along the way, it’s not a trip for an airplane like mine.

There is no such thing as a hard and fast deadline in Northern Alaska. Been there done that, never ever to go back to it!

If I can take off in visual conditions and face building thunderstorms down the road, but know I can easily turn back to improving weather, that sounds doable. If the weather is isolated enough that I can easily get around it without nudging into fuel reserves—another good possibility. If the weather is at the destination, I’ll want to know how far it is to the nearest airport with visual conditions. A fuel stop may be required.

Once you take off, the plan may go out the window. Maybe that big gap between those storms fills in or the fog that is expected to lift at the destination doesn’t; then what? That’s when you act on the plan you made before takeoff—turn back or go elsewhere, or you dream up another one with the help of the onboard weather gear, Flight Watch, and ATC. This is when it’s great to have a co-pilot aboard who can seek weather information for other airports and routes while you fly the airplane. Did I mention how nice it is to have even a basic autopilot for such trips? YIPEEEEEEEE, would not go anywhere without my STEC30, Call me spoiled,

but I won’t fly in weather anymore without datalink weather. I wish I could say that, however the reality is there is no Satellite radio, ADS-B or Datalink in northern Alaska, now and we are not scheduled to receive it for three more years. I live in Jurassic Park in dinosaur land.

 

It’s changed the way I fly and the utility I get out of my airplane.

Returning from EAA AirVenture in July, Flight Training Editor Ian Twombly and I left beautiful weather in Appleton, Wisconsin, bound for Maryland. A line of thunderstorms stretched from Cleveland eastward. More storms were developing over West Virginia, but it looked like we had a clear path over Pittsburgh. As we progressed that afternoon (our schedule didn’t permit a morning flight) the two systems began to merge. Climbing to 11,000 feet to stay visual, we maneuvered among cloud tops and had to turn due south toward Parkersburg, West Virginia, to get through the narrowest part of the line. Thanks to the datalink weather, Stormscope, and ATC, we were in clouds less than five minutes and never got wet—despite some impressive thunderstorms east of our course. Once south of the line we turned east and paralleled it all the way home.

Returning from Wichita after flying the Cessna 182 JT-A diesel airplane (“Jet A for Your Skylane,” page 52), AOPA Live Executive Producer Warren Morningstar and I skirted similar weather in about the same place—again at 11,000 feet and with supremely clear skies behind us. We passed through beautiful sunset-lit cloud canyons and dodged to the south as dusk turned to darkness. We could see lightning in the clouds well north and south of us, but we weren’t in IMC more than five minutes during the entire trip. Challenging and satisfying flying, but started only with options available.

Articles like this are why I subscribe to AOPA magazine

An FAA inspector’s recollections of 9/11

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

We all remember where we were and what we were doing 11 years ago today, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Several of us shared those memories this morning, spurred on in part by the gorgeous, clear blue sky–just like the sky we saw 11 years ago.

Even after all these years, however, I’m intrigued by other accounts of that day. Today I read for the first time the 9/11 account of an FAA inspector who was then assigned to the FSDO at John F. Kennedy International in New York City, and posted today by airnation.net.

An interesting perspective and one I had not read before. Take a look and tell me if you agree.

Cloud Nine suspends operations

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Back in 2010 I wrote about Ted DuPuis and Cloud Nine, a nonprofit organization he created to conduct animal rescue and other types of humanitarian flights (“GA Serves America: The More the Merrier,” January 2011 AOPA Pilot).

Ted had recently acquired a windfall in the form of Sugar Pop, a donated Cessna 310 that would enable Cloud Nine to conduct more far-flung missions with its better range and weather equipment. (The photo shows Ted with Cloud Nine’s Piper Aztec, which he is in the process of selling.) Unfortunately, Sugar Pop was close to needing overhauls when she came into Cloud Nine’s fleet. Now she absolutely must have them, to the point that she is grounded and Cloud Nine has ceased operations until it can acquire the funds.

At least $55,000 is needed to do the work. For more information, see this page, or go to Cloud Nine’s website.

Godspeed, Neil Armstrong

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

We lost an aviation icon, and perhaps the country’s greatest space hero, with the passing of Neil Armstrong on August 25. Armstrong, 82, was the first man to walk on the moon; his statement, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” both summarized his accomplishment and underscored his modest personality.

Although Armstrong generally shunned the spotlight of publicity, he continued to fly, moving from a Beech Bonanza to the Cessna 310 that he recently sold. He told AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Tom Haines in May that he was planning his next aircraft purchase. 

The New York Times reported that Armstrong died afterof complications from cardiovascular procedures, attributing the information to a statement from his family.

The statement is worth reading, and if it wasn’t written by Armstrong, it certainly was inspired by him:

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

“Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

“As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

Do you see similarities with the following quotes attributed to Armstrong, which I nominate as his best:

“This is one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”

“Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.”

R.I.P., Mr. Armstrong. An Eagle has landed.

Tanker exit could heat up fire season

Monday, August 20th, 2012

It’s been a brutal wildfire season in the western United States. And fewer large air assets are available for firefighting since Aero Union’s Lockheed P-3 Orion tankers were grounded last year.

10 Tanker Air Carrier (see the May 2012 AOPA Pilot article here or view the accompanying video on AOPA Live here), has modified the Douglas DC-10 for use as an airborne firefighter. Both of its former airliners have seen some service during this year’s fires. (Evergreen Aviation has modified a Boeing 747 for use as a tanker but said it has not been activated for service by the Forest Service.)

10 Tanker has invested millions developing, demonstrating, and deploying its technology. But the company says that its business model is viable only if it gets an exclusive-use contract from the Forest Service. An exclusive-use contract would provide more financial stability by paying the company to have the aircraft standing by and ready for almost immediate dispatch (the contract provides an amount per flight hour, as well). However, 10 Tanker has only received “call when needed” contracts—there’s no guaranteed payment, but the company agrees to respond within 24 hours of a call if aircraft are available (in this scenario the hourly rate is much higher).

“If used properly, [exclusive use] costs the government less to get the job done,” said Rick Hatton, 10 Tanker’s president and CEO; the cost per gallon of suppressant delivered is significantly lower, and high volume combined with short turnarounds can put more suppressant on a fire quickly. Without a multiyear exclusive-use contract, he said the privately funded company may well have to ground the airplanes altogether.

Evergreen notes in its statement that one reason the 747 is not flying is that the U.S. Forest Service’s specification for Next Generation Air Tanker aircraft limits tank size to 5,000 gallons–the 747 can carry 20,000 gallons, and the DC-10 tanker’s capacity is 11,600 gallons. The situation has prompted both companies to ask the public to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C. and ask them to examine current Forest Service policies regarding what it calls very large air tanker (VLAT) aircraft.

The call to action on 10 Tanker’s Facebook page is direct, and blog posts elsewhere indicate that absent a more suitable contract, the company could ground the aircraft in November. People in several towns credit the orange-and-white tankers with saving their homes–and I expect that some of them already have written their senators and representatives. 

 

Viral video of Idaho crash

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Some of you have seen the footage of a plane crash on YouTube that has gone viral on some of the social media networks. Although the three passengers apparently were not serious injuries, be advised that later in the video there are graphic images of the pilot’s more serious injuries.

The limited information accompanying the video says it took place in Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and that density altitude was an issue. As best as I can tell, this is the preliminary NTSB report, which doesn’t offer many details. Nevertheless, it’s a dramatic depiction of density altitude’s effects on an aircraft that does not appear to be lightly loaded.

I’d love to read a Never Again by the pilot in this accident. I’d also love to know what he thinks about the video posted by his passengers, who apparently all were videotaping the flight. At the time of this post, the video had 338,978 views.

A deserving toast to a helicopter pilot

Monday, July 30th, 2012

It’s not often that my passion for aviation intersects with my interest in craft beer–but it did recently, in what turned out to be a rather sad way.

I was enjoying a can of G’Knight (yes, good beer now is available in cans), an imperial red ale brewed by the Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. (A rather tasty one, too, I might add.) On the can was a cryptic comment about the beer’s namesake–and an unassuming URL that looked like it could refer to an N number. As an aviation journalist I had to look it up.

Gordon Knight was a Nebraska native who flew Army helicopters in Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart. In 1988 he moved to Boulder and made the leap from home brewing to professional brewing. He also continued to fly helicopters–often as a aerial firefighter. Knight died 10 years ago today, at age 52, after his helicopter crashed while he was fighting a forest fire just outside of Lyons, Colorado. The registration of the helicopter he had been flying was N3978Y, anchoring the URL printed on the can.

Knight had worked at a number of Colorado breweries, but never Oskar Blues. Yet his peers in the brewery saw fit to name a beer for their colleague, who died while doing something he enjoyed–and while trying to make a difference. A gesture like that tells me a lot about a person.

Here’s to you, Gordon Knight. Even though we never had the chance to meet, it’s clear from what I’ve read about you that I would have enjoyed the opportunity. 

 

Want to help launch a graphic novel about a WWII-era crop duster in peril?

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Duster has a little bit of everything: a Stearman Kaydet, a tenacious lady crop duster, World War II baddies, and Texas. But before you can order a copy, it needs some financial help.

The 215-page book takes place in the closing days of World War II. A widowed housewife-turned-crop-duster struggles to rescue her daughter from a band of war criminals who crash near her small Texas farm.

Duster’s writers and artists have put the project on Kickstarter, which is an online funding platform for creative projects. In other words, they’re looking for people who would like to back the book–become “early adopters”–and help fund the creation of the art that they want to see. The campaign launched June 18 and needs to raise $26,000. As of today, 277 backers had kicked in a total of $18,433. The campaign closes on July 24. You can download a free 40-page preview of the book, including the first part of the air battle between Joanna Kent in her Stearman Kaydet and a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-290. If you choose to back the project, the creators are offering a number of incentives (not unlike the public television pledge drives) based on the amount you contribute.

Duster’s writers are Micah Wright, creator of the Wildstorm Comics series Stormwatch: Team Achilles; and Jay Lender, writer and director of animated television shows SpongeBob SquarePants and Phineas and Ferb. The artists are Jok Coglitore (rough layouts) and Cristian Mallea (pencils and inks).

Since you don’t come across a lady crop duster very often in fiction, I asked Wright whether he’s a pilot. He’s not, but the character of Joanna Kent is loosely based on his grandmother, who was a cotton farmer’s wife in West Texas during World War II. “The pilot aspect of Jo was inspired by real-life aviation pioneers like Jackie Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love, the two commanders of the Women Airforce Service Pilots,” he said. “Although this isn’t a story about the WASP, Jo was definitely informed by the struggles those real female pilots went through in a very rigidly gender-defined world.”—By Jill W. Tallman